Qela, a new luxury brand being launched by the Qatar Luxury Group, has found an upscale address for its first U.S. store at 680 Madison Avenue on the corner of East 61st Street.
The 6,100-square-foot flagship on two levels will open in early 2015, said Caroline Guillon, vice president of marketing. The group on Sept. 26 launched a unit in Doha, Qatar, and a store on Avenue Montaigne in Paris is expected to open in late spring.
Next, Qela will tackle Asia. “There’s nothing on the calendar yet,” Guillon said. “It will happen when we find the right locations in the main cities of China and Singapore.” She stressed, “We are a new brand. We’re not in a hurry. We don’t want to come aggressively to the market. We want to take time to establish the brand position and see how customers welcome it.”
The Madison Avenue store will have a room with seating where shoppers stop first for refreshment, a cup of coffee and some dates, like the traditional guest offering in Qatar. The area, called the gallery, will have art exhibits that rotate every six months. Another part of the store will feature a private salon dedicated to couture. In Doha there’s a big sofa in the salon. “This is the part of the boutique that will differ from country to country,” Guillon said. “In Paris it will look like a boudoir.”
Guillon said Qela was created as part of a move to diversify Qatar’s economy and be less reliant on the oil and gas industries. “The vision of the ruler [of Qatar] is to create different kinds of industries,” she said.
“Fashion is a small part of that vision. Our mission is to provide training and careers for young Qataris. The Qatar Luxury Group is not a fund. It was not created to acquire existing brands, but to develop brands with traditional know-how.”
Qatar is very multicultural, and Qela’s eight designers have eight different nationalities. All products are designed and prototypes are made in the Qatar workrooms, and couture, special-order handbags and special-order shoes are entirely made in the country. Shoe production is outsourced to Italy and handbags are outsourced to a French company in which Qatar Luxury Group made an investment, Le Tanneur.
The Elyah leather handbag is 17,900 Qatari riyals, or $4,975 at current exchange; the Lulu suede clutch, 8,000 riyals, or $2,222; Fakham leather riding boots, 6,600 riyals, or $1,835, and Jalala leather sandals, 3,540 riyals, or $985.